Obama urges Commerce Secretary Bryson to focus on family, health

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Commerce Secretary John Bryson to "focus his thoughts on his own health, his own family" after suffering a seizure connected to two hit-and-run car accidents over the weekend, the White House said Tuesday. It was their first conversation since Saturday's accidents.

Bryson announced late Monday that he was going on medical leave and delegating his duties to Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank.

"The President encouraged Secretary Bryson to focus his thoughts on his own health and on his own family. And the President indicated his confidence in Dr. Blank, who is somebody who could lead the Commerce Department in Secretary Bryson's absence," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

Obama spoke to Bryson by telephone before leaving the White House for a frenetic six-fundraiser dash-for-cash.Bryson allegedly caused two separate car accidents in the space of five minutes late Saturday afternoon in southern California. The cabinet secretary was at the wheel of his Lexus when he rear-ended a Buick that was stopped at a railroad crossing in San Gabriel, according to the San Gabriel Police Department. He spoke with the Buick's male occupants, then drove away, "hitting the same car again as he left," said a police statement. The men tailed Bryson and called police. They witnessed the secretary hit a second car.

"The president encouraged Secretary Bryson to focus on his own health and getting that care and medical treatment that he needs," Earnest said. "I don't have any updates on those factual details about what happened over the weekend.  But obviously, the medical tests that Secretary Bryson will undergo are related to that."

"I don't have a timetable for his return, primarily because I don't want to pre-judge what the results of a medical examination," the spokesman said.

Bryson could face felony hit-and-run charges.